10 Myths About Job Interviews

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Top prevailing myths about job interviews — and tips to impress.

Here, David Couper — veteran career coach and author of Outsiders on the Inside: How to Create a Winning Career … Even When You Don’t Fit In! — on the most common myths about the job interview, and the best way to deal with them.

Myth 1: The interviewer is actually prepared.

Contrary to what you may expect, when you sit down for the interview, your interviewer probably hasn’t had time to do more than glance through your resume, Couper says. Most interviewers are, in fact, line managers who are harried, overworked and stressed by the need to fill a position.

What to do: Make it easy for your interviewer. When asked the frequent catch all question, “Tell me about yourself” use this as an opportunity to recap the highlights of your resume, your qualifications and why you’re a good fit for the job. (Another way you’ll endear yourself to the interviewer? If you tell them what they need to know, they won’t need to come up with more questions, Couper adds.)

Myth 2: Most interviewers are trained on how to conduct thorough job interviews.

Typically, human resources professionals do get extensive training in job interviewing techniques — but the average manager is more or less winging it.

What to do: If your interviewer asks vague questions, go into specifics even if they aren’t asked for. Couper suggests that you be ready with several concrete examples of your skills and experiences that illustrate why you should be hired for the job.

Myth 3: It’s only polite to accept an interviewer’s offer of refreshment.

To be courteous, many interviewers will offer you a drink — but in reality, it is often a bother for them to rustle up a cup of coffee or tea. And even worse, this can use up a good portion of the allotted interview time.

What to do: Unless the beverage is right there, politely decline.

Myth 4: Interviewers expect you to hand over references’ contact information right away.

Until specifically asked, hold off with providing references. By waiting until after the interview, you’ll have a better idea of who would make the most suitable references for position. (You’ll also have an opportunity to ‘gently’ prep your references first about the details of the job.)

What to do: When asked for references, offer to send the information via email in the next day or so. Note: if you’re a designer or writer, it is appropriate to hand over reports or samples of your work during the interview.

Myth 5: There’s a right answer to every question.

Often interviewers ask a question to see the way you think, and how you approach your answer is more important than the answer itself, according to Couper.

What to do: If you’re presented with a hypothetical problem and asked to resolve it, try to think of a comparable situation from the past — and talk about how you successfully dealt with it.

Myth 6: You should always keep your answers short.

You’ve done your research about the company — and don’t be afraid to speak at some length to convince your interviewer why you’re the right hire.

What to do: Talk-up your qualifications and strengths as it relates specifically to what you’ve learned about the position. And keep in mind that, according to Couper, in a good interview you should be the one talking about two-thirds of the time.

Myth 7: If you’ve got great qualifications, your appearance doesn’t matter.

Studies have shown that physical attractiveness plays a big role in hiring decisions, Couper says. While in an ideal world, skills and qualifications should trump looks, this is often not the case.

What to do: People do care about how you present yourself, so make the most of what you’ve got. It’s not so much about being drop-dead gorgeous, but looking energetic, healthy, and confident.

Myth 8: When asked where you see yourself in five years, you should show tremendous ambition.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s a common enough question, but Couper says it’s also a tricky one. While interviewers want you to be highly motivated, they also worry that you’ll get restless if you don’t move up fast enough.

What to do: Say something that covers all bases, like, ‘I’d be happy to stay in this job as long as I’m still learning things and making a valuable contribution,'” Couper told CNN. Worried about finding yourself in a dead-end job? You could turn the question around and ask, “Where do you see me in five years?”

Myth 9: If the company invites you to an interview, that means the job is still open.

Unfortunately this is not always the case. In fact, Couper says that some companies see ‘interviews’ as an opportunity to do market research on the cheap: they may ask about your current or recent duties, pay scale etc, for comparison purposes. Or, sometimes, the interviewer already has a strong internal candidate in mind, but wants to see if they might find someone more suitable. Finally, if you got the interview through someone in your network, the interview may simply be a courtesy to the person who referred you.

What to do: Even if the job opening is not real, it’s still worth going to the interview. “Sometimes they discover you’re a good fit for a different opening that really does exist. You never know where an interview might lead,” Couper says.

Myth 10: The most qualified person gets the job.

In a job interview, chemistry definitely counts. In fact, a candidate who is less qualified, but has the right personality and hits it off with the interviewer almost always gets hired over a candidate with better qualifications on paper, Couper says.

What to do: Be friendly, upbeat and easy to get along with. If you suspect you haven’t won over the interviewer with your sterling personality, try to fit in a question such as “What would your ideal candidate for this job be like?” And then talk about how you fit that profile.

Sources: CNN Money; Forbes

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